I’m thrilled to have a copy of The Blackbird Season by Kate Moretti on my TBR ready to take on holiday soon. Even more exciting is the fact I get to interview Kate all about The Blackbird Season. It’s almost a year to the day since Kate was last on Linda’s Book Bag, celebrating the UK release of The Vanishing Year with a smashing guest post all about why we love crime novels that you can read here.
The Blackbird Season was published by Titan on 26th September 2017 and is available for purchase here.
The Blackbird Season
Where did they come from? Why did they fall?
In a quiet town, a thousand dead starlings fall onto a high school field, unleashing a horrifying and unexpected chain of events that will rock the close-knit community. Beloved coach and teacher Nate Winters and his wife, Alecia, are well respected throughout town. That is, until one of the reporters investigating the bizarre bird phenomenon catches Nate embracing a student, Lucia Hamm. Lucia soon buoys the scandal by claiming that she and Nate are having an affair, throwing the town into an uproar and leaving Alecia to wonder if her husband has a second life. And when Lucia suddenly disappears, the police only have one suspect: Nate.
Nate’s coworker, Bridget Harris, is determined to prove his innocence. Bridget knows the key to Nate’s exoneration and the truth of Lucia’s disappearance lie within the walls of the school and in the pages of the missing girl’s journal.
The Blackbird Season is a haunting, psychologically nuanced suspense, filled with Kate Moretti’s signature chillingly satisfying twists and turns.
An Interview with Kate Moretti
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Kate. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and The Blackbird Season in particular.
Firstly I’d like to know, why do you write?
All different reasons! To entertain myself and others. To figure out something that bothers me: usually a societal phenomenon. To explore something that fascinates me. To create a story, a setting, a character. To create in general.
When did you realise you were going to be a writer?
After I wrote my first book! As a kid, I was a voracious reader but writers were far away people, who were maybe very famous and rich and probably lived in castles. Attainable careers were teachers, scientists, nurses, doctors, vets. I believed this until I was 35! When I sold my first novel, I thought maybe it was possible that writers were actually people, too, who maybe lived in regular houses (and sometimes got paid very little) and still had to take out their own garbage.
Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about The Blackbird Season?
The Blackbird Season is about a teacher who is accused of an affair with a student who goes missing. It’s told from the POV of the teacher, his wife, his colleague and the student. I loved playing with the line of guilt and innocence here and also the way perception plays such a huge role in the pivotal events of our lives.
Your writing is renowned for its twists and turns. How do you manage your plotting?
I feel like my process varies for each book. In The Vanishing Year, the idea for the book, the first seed of story that I had was the twist at the end. For The Blackbird Season, the characters came to me, almost fully formed. Particularly Nate. He wasn’t based on any one person that I knew, but he felt alive to me. I could envision him and see his decision making process, this sort of clueless and self-absorbed interiority that is both common and somehow covert. The plot changed enormously, in the first initial drafts, Nate and Bridget had an affair. The remnants of that are still there, which is always a funny thing about revisions. You can’t erase it all, almost like it really happened.
Logistically, I’m kind of a mess. I don’t keep track of my plots in spreadsheets and they change a ton over time. I keep a running summary of things that happened “today” meaning the current writing day. Then I record what I think will happen next (it always seems to change). It’s kept as a document in my Scrivener file so I can see the whole plot “at a glance” (if by glance I mean several pages long!). The Blackbird Season was a particular challenge for me because the birds acted like a pivot point between the before and after.
Whilst you write thrillers, there often seems to be an underlying theme of identity in your work. Why is this?
I feel like we become a lot of different people in our lifetime. We are constantly learning and growing and changing and every few years, I have a minor identity crisis. I don’t think I’m alone in this but I also kind of enjoy it. Sometimes that “On this Day” feature will pop up on my Facebook and I hardly recognize the person who wrote a status five years ago. I like that! I’m intrigued by the different ways people handle this inevitable growth. I also think fear drives a lot of terrible decision making and ultimately terrible decision making is the basis for any good suspense novel.
Many people suffer from a fear of birds. Is this something that affects you and why did you choose to feature birds at the start of The Blackbird Season?
I don’t like birds! They’ve always seemed incredibly, terrifyingly smart to me and the way their eyes dart around and their heads twitch is objectively creepy. I’m glad I’m not alone. ALSO. Growing up, my bedroom was in the attic of house surrounded by very tall pine trees. I was nest level hundreds of birds, who, if you don’t know, wake up very early in the morning. I did a lot of cursing at birds on Saturdays in my teen years. However. I did not kill a thousand fictional birds for some kind pathological revenge against a species! I had to use a phenomenon that would bring a reporter and not muck up a human plot (for example, I couldn’t use a secondary murder, it would get to convoluted!). I liked the idea of this Hitchockian backdrop in this depressed community.
Psychological thrillers like The Blackbird Season are incredibly popular amongst readers. Why do you think they appeal to us so much?
I don’t know! They appeal to me too. I like to think that the thin line between a good, moral person and someone we’d usually judge harshly is mostly luck, circumstance and maybe even money. But I’m always amazed by how many people believe they are, truly, superior! For me, that’s the hook, the draw. Seeing myself in someone who is down and out, seeing what decisions I might make differently and how there’s a hairline breadth between our lives. I’ve answered the phone while driving, but I’ve never hit a child. I’ve left a candle burning by mistake, and I’ve never had a fire. I’ve turned my back for a moment, and my child has never been kidnapped. This is luck! Yet, we judge. For me, the attraction to psychological suspense is in that small space: when we, the morally superior, are suddenly thrust into these larger than life experiences.
If you could choose to be a character from The Blackbird Season, who would you be and why?
OH GOD. None of them? Maybe Alecia. I feel like by the end of the novel, she’s coming into her own. She’s accepting her son. She’s unsure about Nate but I have no doubt she’ll stop, figure out her own path, chart accordingly and take no prisoners.
If The Blackbird Season became a film, who would you like to play Nate and Bridget, and why would you choose them?
I have a Pinterest board for this! https://www.pinterest.com/mac6178/blackbird-season/. I chose Maura Tierney as Bridget, Simon Baker as Nate and Amy Adams as Alecia.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?
Suspense, first and foremost. Some literary fiction — the newest it books of the year, to see what all the fuss is about. Some old classics now and then that I’ve missed. Sometimes a light, funny read (I’m reading The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn right now and have cackled out loud quite a bit!). Anything with solid writing and great characters!
If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that The Blackbird Season should be their next read, what would you say?
It’s Halloween! Why wouldn’t you want to read a book about abandoned mills, a dying town, a thousand dead birds, and a murder?
That’s more than 15 though….
Thank you so much, Kate, for your time in answering my questions.
About Kate Moretti
Kate Moretti is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Thought I Knew You, Binds That Tie, and While You Were Gone. She worked in the pharmaceutical industry for ten years as a scientist, but now writes full time. She lives in eastern Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.
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